In marriage, conflict is inevitable. It is how you handle conflict that truly matters…
A marriage is created by uniting two very different individuals into one family unit. Two individuals who are probably consumed by the love and emotion they feel for one another.
That being said, in any situation involving strong emotions, there is bound to be conflict at one time or another. The times of conflict, when you and your spouse are at a crossroads, will be the biggest test to the strength of your marriage.
Do you communicate well in your marriage? How do you handle marital conflicts when they arise?
The reality is that a marriage is a constant “work in progress”, and we need to put forth our best effort to keep it strong.
In order to keep our marriages strong, we need to learn how to diffuse a tense situation before it escalates. One of the greatest things we can do for our spouse is to become an active listener. It’s easy to say you want to be better listener, but actually becoming one takes a great deal of time and practice.
Below you will find several, practical tips to help you become a more active listener in your marriage.
MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT
Even though your instinct will be to turn from your spouse in anger, instead try facing them and maintaining eye contact during your discussion.
When you make eye contact, your spouse feels like you are actively listening to them and understanding their point of view. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with them, give your partner respect by allowing them the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. Look them straight in the eye and make sure you are completely engaged during the entire conversation.
This doesn’t just apply to times of conflict. Whenever we converse with our spouse, or anyone else for that matter, it is important to maintain good eye contact. It is human nature to want to feel like your thoughts and feelings are being heard. If you are spacing out or looking around the room, the other individual soon starts to feel that what they are saying isn’t important.
FIGHT THE URGE TO INTERRUPT
I personally struggle a great deal here! This is an area that takes a lot of conscious effort on my part, especially when in conflict with my spouse. Instinctively, I want to trample over whatever he is saying and insert my two cents.
Although it’s important to ask questions and clarify what the other person is saying, avoid being defensive and immediately inserting your thoughts into the discussion. Give them a chance to completely finish their thought and then respond in a calm manner. Being defensive and aggressive will only help to further aggravate an already tense situation.
Like with making eye contact, this doesn’t just apply to times of conflict! If you are interrupting somebody during a conversation, are you actively listening? Probably not. Focus on becoming an active listener, while not directing the conversation towards you.
STOP PLANNING YOUR REBUTTAL
Whenever I am in a heated discussion, I find myself spending the entire time formulating my response. Although a great tactic during a debate, not so much during marital conflict.
If you allow your mind to flow with constant rebuttals, are you fully hearing your spouse? Try clearing your mind and actively digesting the message they are trying to get across. Do you completely understand their perspective or point of view? Stop thinking and instead just focus on listening.
VALIDATE YOUR SPOUSE’S EMOTIONS
Instead of standing in front of your spouse with a blank or stoic expression, try mirroring the emotions they are feeling. By being empathetic to your spouses feelings, you avoid making the situation worse. I know that instinct says to form a protective shield, but fight the urge and validate your spouse’s feelings and frustrations.
PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE
This is a tough one in our day and age. We are constantly being bombarded with technology and social media. Especially in recent generations, we have almost lost the need for physical, human interaction. Instead, we prefer to communicate through social media and texting, doing everything possible to avoid communicating face to face.
For our marriage to be successful, we need to place a greater emphasis on physical and emotional interaction, especially during a heated conversation. Fight the urge to avoid and ignore, consciously putting down your phone and facing conflict head on.
Conflict will come in marriage, but it’s how we resolve the conflict that matters. One of the best things we can do for our spouse is to learn to be an active listener. Apply these few, simple steps and learn to resolve conflict more quickly and calmly. Put in the time and energy to become a better listener and your marriage will certainly reap the benefits.